When Silence isn’t Golden: Being Brave, Not Perfect, with Space and Grace

Jennifer Brown | |

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Join us on The Will To Change for a conversation previously recorded as a community call with Sandra Quince, SVP, Diversity and Inclusion Executive at Bank of America, and Elfi Martinez, Senior Director at Jennifer Brown Consulting. Discover what leaders need to consider at this time when it comes to communicating their stance on DE&I, and why everyone in the organization needs to be involved in creating real change. 

In this episode you’ll discover:

  • Why we need to be open and authentic with each other  (10:00)
  • The importance of self-care for advocates (19:00)
  • Why we need courage and commitment (22:00)
  • The range of emotions that people are currently experiencing (33:00)
  • How to convert our intentions in actions (38:00)
  • The head and heart components to DE&I work (42:00)
  • Why leaders need a point of view (44:00) 
  • Why we can’t have all the answers (46:00)
  • Why everyone in the organization needs to be involved in the conversation (51:00)

Listen in now, or read on for the transcript of our conversation:

JENNIFER BROWN: Hello, hello, hello. Hi everybody, I’m opening up a couple minutes early here. I expect a big crowd again. How is everyone? I’m seeing everybody log in. Welcome, family. Hello, happy Thursday. I, of course, have missed you. As you come in today, we are… for those of you who are new, we are mousing over our name in Zoom and we’re adding our pronouns. So let’s do that as we go here. You can just hit rename and do that. And also, as we get on, please greet everybody in the chat. Let us know who you are, where you work, what your role is, where are you located in the country. And as everybody knows, that has been on these calls, it’s a safe space to share what you’re feeling. So I’ll just put that right there.

I know you all are feeling a lot of things, and the thing we’re all about in our work is, sadly, changing the fact that a lot of us can’t really bring our full selves to our work teams right now. Some of us work for companies that are not speaking about what’s happening in our world and not acknowledging it and not leading on it. So this is a place where you can bring all of that messiness. If you need to, if you want to, we will hold the space with you. And I can guarantee, you have a lot of community. If everybody can make sure they’re on mute. That would be great. Make sure you’re muted. Welcome, welcome for those of you that are hopping on. Hello, we’re adding our pronouns, so we’re renaming ourselves and adding our pronouns in the… I think still, someone is not on mute here.

JENNIFER BROWN: Anita, I think that’s you. Ah, let me do that. Okay. All right. Can everybody hear me okay? All right. Cool. Welcome, welcome. All right. All right, everybody, if you can greet each other in chat, please share who you are, where you work, what your role is, where you are in the country, how you’re feeling, anything you’d like to share with us today. It’s been another really intense week, day. Gosh, every day feels like a lifetime, but so much is developing, so much learning is happening, so many doors are being opened. Our job is to keep those doors open, so the change and real sustainable change can happen.

So I am by turns depressed, angry, hopeful, excited, many, many, many different things, and I’m sure that all of you can relate to that. Welcome. Welcome. Jorge, Nika, Denise. Hello. Nice to see your names. Elfi, I’m going to make sure you are made as a cohost here, so that you can speak. Welcome, welcome everybody. And we’re also sharing how we’re feeling today. I was saying before some of you joined that this call has come to be known as a place where we can bring our full selves and feel all the things that we need to feel, because some of us work for companies where there is a silence around what’s happening right now, there is a lack of leadership, there is a lot of discomfort, and we need an outlet, because we’re people too.

And this work is deeply personal, and so this is a place where you can all bring that all the time in whatever way you want to bring it and know that you’re… see that you’re not alone, feel the power of this community and the love of this community, because there is a tremendous, tremendous strength amongst all of us. Welcome. Welcome. Thank you. Alrighty. So it’s a minute after the hour, and I’m going to jump in here and get us started and kick over to our guests today, to whom I am extremely grateful, especially Sandra, because she’s in the thick of some really interesting developments, which I want to talk about quickly.

I’m a speaker for the Tulsa ROI Summit, coming up on Thursday. And some of you may have noticed that Tulsa is in the news. There is a rally going on in Tulsa on Juneteenth, and sadly Juneteenth… As far as I understand, the celebrations have been postponed because of COVID and for social distancing purposes. But it doesn’t erase the pain of that choice, I think, and it’s very much on my heart and mind. And we’ll be sharing the link to the ROI Summit that I’m participating in with some incredible speakers, including Sandra, on Thursday next week. And it’s something you may want to look at, it’s something you may want to attend, and it’s a news story that I want to make sure is on all of our radar screens, because I think this hits us right where we live in so many ways.

And I know for us, we are… the planning committee for this conference, are navigating some potentially unwanted attention on this call. And so managing the backend of chat and permission, and making sure that the things we want to make sure we’re talking about are not interrupted in harmful ways. And so I am curious from folks on chat to… I’ve read a couple of news stories about interlopers entering chat during webinars, educational programs, et cetera, and it’s something I think we… In addition to everything else we’re having to learn how to be experts on, we have to learn about managing technology and sort of the disruptive voices sometimes that enter the space of education, that enter the sacred spaces. I call them sacred. I consider them to be sacred.

And so I just want everyone to kind of hold this for our friends in Tulsa, hold the organizers of the ROI Summit and us, as we try to educate and hold that sacred space. And maybe all of you can also join and support in that way with your numbers and with your voices and with your voice in chat in particular. I think it would be helpful. And by the way, it also… I think it overlaps our community call time next week, which is normally noon to one on Thursdays, Eastern. And so I think we are going forward as scheduled with our next call. But we may shift something like that, so just make sure you keep an eye on your newsletter and see where the call and when the call is going to be on Thursday, just in case we make a shift here and there.

All right. I’m so glad you’re all on. Hi Shay, one of the organizers of the summit. So we are living history, folks, in so many ways. Just as soon as I put my head down on the pillow, the next day, something else happens. I know that we’re navigating a lot, we’re holding a lot of space, we’re feeling so much, and yet having to lead at the same time. Some of us work for organizations that aren’t making space for all of this, and aren’t responding in an appropriate way, and that’s because they haven’t really done their work and they don’t know how to respond and so they’re behind. And I know that because we’re getting a lot of calls for assistance and help.

And we need somebody to mute their line. Please just make double sure you’ve muted your line. Thanks so much. And so in the chat, please, as I kick it off to Elfi and Sandra, share what’s going on in your organization. Are you working for a place or a manager that is struggling to communicate adequately right now in a heartfelt, in an authentic way, in a way that resonates, in the way that’s needed? I’m just kind of curious, because we’re all watching how organizations are responding to this. And it’s in a very, very interesting moment of proof, and of who has been doing the work and has been on a journey and who hasn’t, and who’s struggling to flex at this moment. So it’s fascinating. Thank you so much for sharing how you’re feeling in the chat.

All right. So I’m going to kick over to Elfi Martinez in a moment. Elfi is somebody on my team, a treasured friend, co-journey person, an expert. Elfi has actually traversed many different walks of life, including financial services and also screenwriting in Hollywood. If any of you have had a chance to work with our team members, Elfi is one of our core people at JBC. And Elfi has generously offered to come today and be in conversation with Sandra Quince, Global Diversity and Inclusion Executive at Bank of America. And Sandra’s also based in Tulsa, as I mentioned, and is one of the co-presenters at this conference next Thursday.

So with that, I would like to hand it over to you, Elfi for the conversation, and I’ll be in chat, sharing resources and coordinating things. And if you’d like to, Elfi, ask me if there’s any Q&A that’s coming up in the chat, so that you can be very present in the conversation, kick over to me at any point for that.

ELFI MARTINEZ: Great.

JENNIFER BROWN: Great.

ELFI MARTINEZ: Okay.

JENNIFER BROWN: Thank you.

ELFI MARTINEZ: That was amazing. Well, hello everyone. As Jennifer mentioned, my name is Elfi Martinez and I’m very happy and excited to been in partnership with Jennifer for many years now. She is a deeply respected friend and colleague, so I’m always happy to help. And when she asked me to kind of host the call today, I, of course, jumped on the opportunity to work together and to talk to all of you wonderful folks on the line today. And just to give you kind of a quick little sketch of what we’re going to be doing, is we’re going to have a conversation with Sandra Quince, who is a leader at Bank of America on their diversity equity and inclusion team. So we’re going to talk to her today about some of the things that she’s thinking about and is really energized about personally, but also kind of putting on her corporate hat, looking at things… from the Bank of America lens, as well as just the lens as someone in financial services and banking, which has a very mixed history when it comes to systemic racism and things of that nature. So we’re going to have kind of a wildly varying conversation today. But just to kind of get the ball rolling, I want to introduce Sandra. So Sandra, I can see you. Say hello and welcome to-

SANDRA QUINCE: Hi.

ELFI MARTINEZ: … the conversation. And kind of starting things off at the personal level, just you and me talking as individuals. As a Black mom, as a Black woman, as a mother, as a parent, what is up for you right now regarding some of the events that have kind of changed the world in the past couple months? So we’re obviously talking about the protests and what’s been happening around the nation, but let’s not forget COVID-19, hasn’t gone away, so that has also impacted how we are interacting today in this world. So I want to kind of get your quick snapshots, how are you feeling personally about recent events? What’s up for you?

SANDRA QUINCE: Yeah. So thank you, first of all, so much for having me and Jennifer, thank you for inviting me. I really appreciate it, and giving a specific opportunity as DNI professionals to dialogue together. Elfi, thank you so much for hosting this. I don’t know if you know what you’re in for, but it’s about to be a wild ride.

ELFI MARTINEZ: I love it. Lets go.

SANDRA QUINCE: Yes. So this a time be authentic and open with each other. And I see that every word I think I’m saying is on the bottom of this screen, so bleep out things if I say something inappropriate. So I just want to get… Thanks, Jennifer, I appreciate that. So what I’ll say is how I’m feeling. I think it’s a mixture of emotions. I think the first thing that comes to mind for me is I’m exhausted. I’m exhausted, I’m tired. For many people who know me, they know that I live in Tulsa, my husband lives in New York city. We have a 15 year old in high school. I am raising a African-American, beautiful, smart son.

And I am literally exhausted because I have been worrying about him now since his birth, and it has only heightened in the last few years, that worry that I have for him, every day, he leaves my house and goes to school or goes on a field trip. So I’m exhausted from that. I would say that I am angry, because I am angry with where we are as a society, as a people. I am somewhat embarrassed. I’m embarrassed as a human being that we can’t be better for each other sometimes. I’m anxious because I want change, but I’m not sure it’s coming. Right?

ELFI MARTINEZ: Hmm. Yeah.

SANDRA QUINCE: But on the flip side of that, on the flip side, I’m hopeful, because I’ve seen some things over the last few months, although some very bad things, with COVID, because you’re right, COVID is still looming, it’s the underpinning of how we started this year, but I’ve seen some impressive, yet hopeful things that make me say, “Gosh, I believe that we can do better and be better people.” And I’m excited sometimes, because I’m excited about the conversations and the dialogue that many of us are having. It’s long overdue, and I know many of you know that. But there are some realities that we have to face as a people, and this is one opportunity where… and not one, but one of the opportunities where we have to face our ugliness, our true character, and that’s not easy.

It’s hard to put a mirror up and say, “Gosh, I’m not who I thought I was,” and be honest with yourself. But at the same time, we have to face our goodness and our potential to do good and to impact change, and we all have a place to do that. So if you ask me how I’m feeling, my emotions are really all over the place. And sometimes I’m crying and other times I’m laughing and other times I’m cheering. And so that may seem a little off, in one day, I could have all of those emotions, but that’s, I think, where we all are at some point. And then there are times I’m just quiet and I’m reflective. What more should we be doing? What else should we be saying? Or sometimes it’s just being quiet and listening. And I think a lot of us need to do that.

The other feeling that I’ll share, because I know we want to get to some other things, is guilt. I spend time between Tulsa and New York. So right now I’m in New York, I’ll be back in Tulsa in a few days to handle some things that’s going on there. No, I’m just kidding, I’m not going to handle anything, um just going back. I got some business to do on Juneteenth. No, I’m just kidding. My husband and I were walking, and there was a… we walked past a nursing home, we were going to Central Park just to get some fresh air. Outside of this nursing home, where there was some elderly people, they were all White, and there were some younger folks as well, probably either caretakers or family members, and they were holding up Black Lives Matter signs. And immediately, I became guilty, because the first part of me started saying, “I should be the one holding up that sign.”

And I think we all have to face this guilt, because guilt will make you do some things and say some things contrary to maybe what you should or what you need to do. And immediately, I had to quelch that and I had to stop myself, because this is not just Sandra’s fight, it is everyone’s fight. And what I did was instead of harboring that guilt, I dealt with it. I put up my fist and I said, “Thank you.” And I cheered them on, and I went on to Central Park and enjoyed the time with my husband. And I say that because I think a lot of times we don’t want to face things because all of us, at some point, are harboring some level of guilt, whether it’s, “I’m guilty because I feel like as a White person, maybe I haven’t done enough and somehow I’m contributing to this.” 

But then that guilt can then turn into resentment and anger, and you start trying to justify it. Let it go. Don’t feel guilty. This is no one’s fault, but it’s everyone’s fault. And so I just say that to say that I think we all have to deal with that and make sure that we can face that in a way that’s healthy for ourselves. And then the other day, I saw a quote that said something around taking care of yourself, because we’re in this for the long haul, and protecting yourself from sometimes social media, from the news.

There are days that my husband… My husband works in television news, by the way, so we’re inundated all the time and stimulated. And there are days he says, “We’re not going to watch today. But let’s just turn it off, this is a free day.” And you need that, because you need time to reflect and you need time to kind of build yourself back up to go back into the fight again. Because we’re in this for the long haul. This is not going to go away. And I know some people hope it does, and like, “Oh gosh, we’re not going to be having this conversation next month. This will blow over in a week, just like the virus.” It was just a little cold and it was going to go away, and it’s still here.

ELFI MARTINEZ: Right.

SANDRA QUINCE: So we’re in this for the long haul.

ELFI MARTINEZ: Well, thank you, Sandra, for that. I think that was an incredibly powerful just testimony to where you are right now and how you’re feeling. And I think I can definitely align with some of those things. When people ask me, how am I doing? I say, “It depends on when you ask me.” Right? There are times when I’m feeling inspired, there are times when I’m feeling despair. It really is all over the place. 

SANDRA QUINCE: Mm-hmm.

ELFI MARTINEZ: And I think you’re what you just mentioned a moment ago is so important, especially for folks in the diversity equity inclusion space, this idea of self-care. Because we are so inclined to want to make a difference, we have to realize that if we go too hard by ourselves, we burn out and then we can’t help anybody. We can’t help ourselves and we-

SANDRA QUINCE: That’s right.

ELFI MARTINEZ: … can’t help anybody else. So trying to kind of keep that balance of progress and moving the work forward, but also taking care of yourself, so that you have the energy to do this again tomorrow. Right?

SANDRA QUINCE: That’s right, that’s right.

ELFI MARTINEZ: It’s very difficult.

SANDRA QUINCE: Yes.

ELFI MARTINEZ: So one of the things that you mentioned, I think is incredibly important, because we’ve heard this before, the whole, “this time it’s different” idea. So I wanted to kind of check in with you with that, because I’m hearing that now a lot; this time, it feels different, this time it feels like we’re going to be doing something differently. So I want to check in on kind of some of your feelings around that. When you hear that this time, it feels different, first of all, do you agree with it? What feels different to you? What do you think needs to happen for it to feel different in the long-term? So this isn’t just something we talk about for a week and then we go back to our normal lives. Right? What are some of your thoughts around the whole, this time, it feels different mentality?

SANDRA QUINCE: I don’t know if it was Jennifer that I was having this conversation with when we recorded last week, but COVID, for all the bad, and I have to say, and I’m going to be very vulnerable here, we lost two family members in COVID, so I’m not ever wishing that COVID had happened, I am not. It’s been very devastating for our family. So besides dealing with death and not being able to be there in person… This is all the emotions people are dealing with right now. People have lost their jobs, but I think what COVID did, and the reason why it feels a little different for me, I think that had this moment, George Floyd, happened at any other time, I don’t think the response would have been the same.

Remember, this is not the first time that something like this has happened, but it happened at a time when we were coming, we were in the midst of what I’ll call a war. And if anyone has ever been in the military, my father was in the military, I have uncles that have served in the military, they will tell you that it is probably one of the most diverse and inclusive… not that the military doesn’t have its problems. But as one person said, “I don’t have time to think about your skin color when I’m out there on the battle lines. We are trying to save each other’s life.” And that’s what I think COVID did. We did not care.

Like, literally, I’m wearing a mask, not just for me, but I’m wearing it for my neighbor. I’m checking on my neighbor. For the first time in my neighborhood, which is primarily a White neighborhood, people were outside, people were again working from home, we were on our porches, we were yelling across the street and checking on each other. My one neighbor called me, she said, “I haven’t seen you in two days. oh my God, are you okay? I know your husband’s in New York, is there anything you need?” And this is where we were at the time. And we really were in a moment where COVID was the… We all had a common enemy, and it was COVID. And we were fighting that enemy for our lives. And we really didn’t care, Black, White, blue, green; a Martian could have landed, we will have a mask, put a mask on that Martian and say, “Listen, take cover, COVID.”

ELFI MARTINEZ: Right.

SANDRA QUINCE: Right? So when this happened, and we’re all at home, so number one, we’re at home, now we’re all watching television, and we see this? Then I think that that’s what makes this… what started or helped to make this different to me. Because we were already in this battle together, and now we have been… We had all this pent up frustration and have been in our houses, and now we see this. And it is really not about color. What I will say is that yes, racial disparities exist, we know it exists. There’s no debating that. We know that Black and Brown communities are more impacted, and I’m not saying that.

But what I am saying is when you saw that, what happened, you knew to your core, regardless of your affiliation from a religious standpoint, your affiliation from a political standpoint, your affiliation from a racial standpoint, whatever you thought, you knew that was wrong, to your core. And now people wanted to act. And I think that that’s what helped to make this different. We’re responding in a different way. And for the first time, in my lifetime… Now, I wasn’t born in the ’60s, I didn’t march with MLK. So I know that this movement did not happen with just Black, African American people. I know that it took different races to come alongside and support that. But in my lifetime, I had never seen a young White man hold up a sign that says Black lives matter.

And we were no longer having the debate around, well, don’t all lives matter? Well didn’t nobody say all lives didn’t matter. One does not negate the other. And now we’re painting it on streets. So yes, this is different. Now, what do we need to do to keep this? I think we all need to find our place. Listen, I’m not advocating that everybody should be out protesting. That’s not everybody’s job, that’s not your forte. That’s okay. Some of us are going to remain home and remain quiet and remain reflective. And I ask you in that time, increase your learning, reflect on it and determine for yourself, whether it’s just read a book, get to know someone who’s different from you. That will be some of our jobs.

Some of us are going to take to the streets, regardless of what’s happening with COVID, risk it, get out there, dance in the streets, march in the streets, do it peaceably, and that’s going to be your job. Some of us are going to legislate, some of us are going to run for office, and that’s going to be your job. Some of us are going to advocate for change in different ways and ensure that laws are passed, so that we can get to a better place, because none of this is going to happen overnight, and that will be your job. So we all have a role to play, and I just think you have to find that for you. But at the same time, we’re all responsible for educating ourselves. This is not the time to call up your Black friends and expect them to explain everything Black for you. This is not that time.

Now, what I’m not saying is, “Oh, well I shouldn’t call my Black friends?” No, I’m not saying that. I’m saying this is the time to say, “What don’t I know, and how can I educate myself?” So you have to be up on the issues. And sometimes that’ll happen through dialogue, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But don’t use this as a moment to over-inundate people of Color with all these questions. So use some of this time for yourself to get educated on the issues. And I think that’s something that all of us can do, because there are certain pockets where I am not as educated. I have not had those experiences, so I need to be better at learning, even across the aisle.

I think I told the story of my husband, who had a conversation with a White male, he was a straight White male. And he said, “I’m going to be very honest with you.” He said, “I, for the first time have to face my White privilege. And when I tell you that that is hard, and I know it’s hard, it’s hard. Because you have to face that I may have been raised in a way…” And he admitted this. “My parents have always told me that I’m better.” And I know that conversations happen in a lot of homes. You cannot tell me it doesn’t. Unless babies pop out understanding that they’re better, then you can’t tell me that conversation hasn’t happened. You have to teach to hate. You have to teach hate. You have to teach that discrimination. You have to teach that. That’s a learned behavior. We’re not born that way.

So that’s the first thing he said. The second thing he said is that… he said, “I need courage.” He said, “And I don’t know that I have it. I don’t know that I have the courage to do what I need to do.” And he said, “The third thing is, I don’t know that I have the commitment. Am I committed? Am I in it for the long haul?” And that conversation was eye opening for my husband, and it was all my husband needed to hear. They didn’t talk about anything else. My husband didn’t try to explain what it was to be Black and why this was a moment of reckoning, and there were no questions asked and there was nothing solved. But what there was, was an enlightenment and an understanding of where this gentleman was, and it made all the difference in the world to my husband. 

Because for the first time, you understood the other side of it. And we have to give each other space and grace. On one hand, I have to give you grace when you say things that may be offensive to me, because you’re not… Everybody’s not going to get it right. I’ve said things to an LGBTQ community that they thought were offensive. I asked for grace, listen give me grace. I don’t know what I don’t know, and I’m not perfect. But at the same time, in giving that grace, I have to understand the difference between impact and intent. I didn’t intend to be offensive, but I have to own the impact of that.

But you, on the other hand, have to give me grace. The flip side of that coin is, don’t discount my experience. Just because it doesn’t happen to you, don’t tell me it’s not happening. Don’t tell me that police don’t stop men of Color more, so I don’t believe that’s happening because it doesn’t happen to me, it’s never happened to me. Well, just because it doesn’t happen to you doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. And so that’s where we have to say, don’t discount my experience. I don’t even remember what your question was…

ELFI MARTINEZ: You have answered it many times over. That was fantastic. And I really appreciate you speaking from the heart. I think that’s what people need to hear right now, this understanding that this is messy work. Right?

SANDRA QUINCE: Yeah.

ELFI MARTINEZ: A lot of times people want to get into conversation and think everything’s a scalpel and it’s going to be precise. But talking to people doesn’t often work that way. Oftentimes, is a chainsaw, it’s messy.

SANDRA QUINCE: Absolutely.

ELFI MARTINEZ: It’s not going to be beautiful. But sometimes even having the conversations without having the answers is the most important thing. Just saying, “What’s up for you,” like this gentleman did, “I’m afraid, I don’t know if I have the courage, I don’t have the commitment.” That in itself is a show of vulnerability that invites conversation.

SANDRA QUINCE: That’s right.

ELFI MARTINEZ: So I encourage all of us not to wait until we have all the answers before we do anything. Act first and figure it out later, but let people know-

SANDRA QUINCE: That’s right, be brave and not perfect. Be brave. Yes.

ELFI MARTINEZ: It’s up to you. Do and say something, because it is the silence and the normalcy of all this that made things the way that they are. So you don’t have to fix it, but-

SANDRA QUINCE: That’s right.

ELFI MARTINEZ: … make sure you do or say something, so that tomorrow will be different than yesterday.

SANDRA QUINCE: Absolutely.

ELFI MARTINEZ: So I’m really, I’m really grateful that you have talked about some of those things. Before we do jump on, I do want to just say I’m sorry to hear about the members of your family. I think it’s extremely important for us to hold the space that Black and Brown people have been severely, significantly more impacted than White folks. And the reality is that this is as a result of all the racial and systemic inequities you’ve been talking about across the board have showed up in COVID and demonstrated to us that things are not okay for everybody. So I want us to hold the space for that, and also to realize that it’s these same people that have been overlooked for so long that are right now keeping this country going. Right? It’s the-

SANDRA QUINCE: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

ELFI MARTINEZ: … food clerks and the people that are working at the lowest levels that are keeping our country alive. So let’s keep them in our hearts and make sure we take care of them, because right now they’re sure as hell taking care of us. Right?

SANDRA QUINCE: Absolutely. And listen, I’m not going to sit here and pretend that Black and Brown people, although disproportionately impacted by COVID, that we don’t own some of that. We need to do a better job of taking care of ourselves. 

ELFI MARTINEZ:Sure.

SANDRA QUINCE: So I’m willing to own that. But you’re absolutely right, there are other things that have been put in place over the years that have just put people at such a disadvantage. And I think that that’s where we have to level the playing field. And I oftentimes will say, diversity and inclusion is not a replacement strategy. So if you’re out there doing DNI and you’re… I was in a conversation with my son earlier, I was telling Jennifer and LB about it, that… Listen, if you are hiring people because of their skin color, you are not doing DNI. I have no idea what that is. That is not diversity. And then don’t do that in the name of DNI.

Color does not equal quality. Because I’m White, doesn’t make me better than, and because I’m Black doesn’t make me more needy than. You hire the most qualified person. But you need to put processes in place, from a talent perspective, to make sure that  you are eliminating, as much as you can, the unconscious biases. So do you have a way to attract talent, and do you have a way to track that talent’s progress in your organization? Your slate should be diverse. But when you’re putting people those slates, you need to ensure that they’re qualified. We never asked you, never asked you to hire an unqualified person because of their skin color. And that really burns me. I don’t like that. And that’s not the way you do diversity and inclusion.

And the reason why your slates have to be diverse, because there are biases. We love people who look like us. That’s the crux of the matter. We all have biases. That’s where you’re more comfortable. And I’m not saying that having biases are bad. We have biases. We understand that. But they need to be eliminated in the workplace when you’re making decisions around talent. And so you have to do your part to help people eliminate those biases. Are you doing bias checks at every moment that matter in an employee’s life? From the moment you go to try to attract talent all the way through the time that you’re trying to retain talent, and everything in between; development, promotion. You need a way to check that progress and have a point of inflection and inspection, because that’s how we make progress in this country, especially when it comes to talent.

And so I think that we need to ensure that those are put in place, because that’s partly why we’re starting now to hear and see all of this reverse discrimination, or everyone feeling as though they’ve had systemic racism because a Black person is hired and a White person wasn’t and so the White person goes, “Well, they were hired because they were Black.” No, they were hired because they’re good at what they do and they happened to be just as good or better than you, and that’s okay. That’s okay.

And so I think that that’s where we have to start, especially in the workplace. And I’m just very passionate about that. We’ve got to find ways in our corporate settings to help mitigate what’s happening in our society. And so when you talked about breaking the silence, absolutely. In our companies and corporations, there is no excuse for this. Break the silence, reach out, engage your teams, be intentional, check your biases. Don’t be silent, set the stage, be authentic, be empathetic, ask what you can do to help and follow up. And it can be as simple as, “Listen, given the recent events, I wanted to check in, I want to see how you’re doing. I don’t know how this might be impacting you, I don’t know what it’s like for you, but I wanted to reach out and say that I’m here if you need me.” 

The second thing we need to be aware of is, everybody’s not going to be ready to talk, and that’s okay. That’s okay. I may not be ready to say anything in that moment, and that is perfectly okay. But recognize there are a range of emotions out there. Because people aren’t saying anything doesn’t mean that they feel one way or the other, it means that they need time to process, and they may not feel safe, and they may not feel ready to say it, especially in the workplace. So what environment have we already created?

And I think Jennifer said at the beginning, listen, some of us are further along because we already started the work a while ago. If you had not started this work before, it’s going to be very difficult for you now to pick up the phone and say, “I need to call all my Black people and check in on them.” First of all, you need to call all your people and check in on them. And second of all, if you ask for a list of the Black people in your organization, then there’s a problem there, because you should have already known your talent.

ELFI MARTINEZ: Right.

SANDRA QUINCE: So you have to be aware that everybody’s not ready, and it’s okay to say, “Listen, I’m here when you’re ready to chat. I just wanted to let you know that I’m feeling some sort of way, I don’t know how you’re feeling, and I’d love to dialogue, if you’d like. And if you’re not ready, I understand.” And that can be done in an email. It can be as simple as, “I’m with you. When you’re ready to talk, just give me a call.” You say that, I promise, I’ll break down in tears, because that means… that’s saying so much without saying a lot.

And then it’s okay if you don’t have all the answers. This is not about fixing something, this is about just trying to broaden our perspectives and understanding. We’re not asking you to have the answers. Nobody has all the answers. But as I stated before, educate yourself, figure out what your place is. And don’t make assumptions, ask questions. So in the corporate setting, these are some of the things that we can do. And absolutely, hopefully, your leaders have sent something out. And listen, if you’re going to say something in this moment, it needs to be authentic and real, and you need to call a thing a thing.

Don’t use these big, broad terms around, “We need to all be unified.” Yes we do, but at this moment, you need to make a very strong statement around, “Listen, we value and respect everyone in our workplace. We condemn racism at its very core, and we are going to make strides.” Now, if you’re going to make that statement, then you got to put some action behind it. If you’re not willing to put action behind it, then just remain silent. Because honestly, people are going to expect some action. And in our company… I didn’t mean to cut you off, but let me just make this point. In our company, our CEO did not come out… It took him five days to respond. And our people were just… they just couldn’t believe it. Five days.

Now, we’ve done a lot of work over diversity and inclusion. It took him five days. And the reason why he waited five days is because my CEO is saying, “I didn’t want to make a statement without putting my action on the table,” and he needed some time to complete those actions, which is when we came out with our $1 billion commitment. Because to him, you could say a lot, but it’s about, what are you going to do about it? And he wanted to not only say something, but he wanted to say, “You know what? And here’s what we’re doing.” I know you had a statement. I apologize.

ELFI MARTINEZ: No, no. You went there naturally, so I think we’re on the same page. What I was going to ask you about, and you went there anyway, is something that we’ve been hearing a lot about, is making sure that people don’t engage in what we call performative activism, right?

SANDRA QUINCE: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

ELFI MARTINEZ: Where you say what you think other people want to hear, or you slap the BLM lives matter on your Facebook page, but you never talk about it again. What can we do to ensure that this is something that goes beyond the conversation right now? And I think what I’m really asking is, how do we convert our intentions into actions? Because without action, at some point, people will lose faith in your good will. They won’t give you grace anymore. Right? Hope has a shelf life. Sooner or later, you have to do what you said, or people are not going to believe what you say going forward. So-

SANDRA QUINCE: That’s right. 

ELFI MARTINEZ: … I want to ask you, when it comes to doing that conversion, moving intention to action, tell me a little bit more about what your CEO decided to do and how this $1 billion is going to be used. Because it’s a large amount of money, it’s an incredible amount of money. How is it going to be used to ensure that the system is different tomorrow than it was yesterday? What are some of the things that you’re seeing in here? 

SANDRA QUINCE: So I think for us, it’s really investing in communities that have been underserved in the past, and that’s where we’re putting that $1 billion. Plus, we just came out with another $25 million commitment, and it’s around education, it’s around exposure. But it’s around creating and lending your resources to create a more fairer, if that’s a word, community, so that Black and Brown people have the opportunity to gain all the necessary tools and resources that they need in order to make progress.

And I’m going to say this, and I hope no one… We’re amongst family here. But I said to my son today, I said, “Listen…” And I may have already said this in this setting, and I’m going to repeat it, “I don’t want a hand up, I don’t want a hand out, I don’t want to hand down, I want you to take your foot off my neck and let me go.” That’s all we’re asking for. And that’s what we want to provide to these communities. And that’s what we need. We need us to create a level playing field. And even in your companies, if you can’t commit a billion dollars, that’s okay, you can’t give 25 million, that’s okay as well. But what can you do? Can you create more empathy and understanding within your organizations?

What are you doing, from a diversity and inclusion perspective, around talent and creating opportunities that will attract the best and brightest to your companies? How are you ensuring that you’re reflecting the clients and communities that you’re serving? What are you doing in your community to ensure that there is equality and education? How are you pushing your vendors, those that do business with you, to ensure that they have their own diversity and inclusion strategies and holding them accountable? These are things that you can do. And they’re simple things. “We’re not going to do business with you unless we know you have a clear strategy and that you’re executing on that strategy.”

And so I think these are just small things that we can do. And then personally, how are you educating yourself? What conversations are you having at home? That’s the thing that worries me. That’s what worries me. What are you telling your children? What are you saying to them? How are you helping to create a better place for us in the future? And I think that the more we can do there, the better we will be in the future. So I think there are all kinds of things that our corporations… And you have a responsibility in your communities to do this. You are hiring people, you’re responsible for that livelihood, but what are you doing to ensure that your employees feel supported, and that they feel they can bring their whole selves to your workplace?

And I know some people will say, “But why should I do this, Sandra? Really, why? What’s in it for me as a company?” Well, let’s talk about the bottom line. Companies who have a clear DNI strategy and enact on that strategy are more profitable. They are more innovative, their clients are happier, and they create more engaged employees. So what does that mean? You make more money. And that’s really the goal of our company. My CEO has to answer to his board. And honestly, if all we talked about all day was DNI, his board would say, “Okay, well, show me the money.” DNI is a part of his business strategy. Yeah. So no, I was saying it’s a part of our business strategy, and it’s not separate and it’s not something off to the side. He holds himself, the board holds him accountable, and he holds his direct reports accountable. When they come in and they do their business reviews with our CEO, that’s a part of what they talk about, every business review. They have to talk about what they’re doing to drive diversity and inclusion within their lines of businesses.

And so everybody’s not going to operate and do it the same. I’m very proud of the progress that Bank of America’s has made, but I have to tell you that we’ve been doing this now for 20 plus years. We still have, we’re not perfect. We are not perfect. We’re good, but we’re not perfect. And we know that we have a ways to go and there are still things internally that we want to do. But I will tell you that at Bank of America, if I feel some sort of way, I feel really good about coming to work and expressing myself. And what that does for me, as an employee…

And someone was probably saying it in the background, the pain and the trauma that you’re feeling right now… The fact that I feel supported by my company has been a huge part of why I can continue to do the work that I do and do it as well as I do it. I give them 150% because they recognize me for who I am and allow me to come to work and not have to hide behind a mask. They allow me to come and not have to cover. And everybody covers. Even White men cover.

ELFI MARTINEZ: Absolutely.

SANDRA QUINCE: Everybody covers. And that is exhausting in itself.

ELFI MARTINEZ: Yes. Absolutely. And then just to underline a couple of points that you’re making, because I think this is so important for the folks on the call today to hear, is in the 1990s, I think kind of the main positioning statement of diversity inclusion work is, it was the right thing to do. And that’s true. Right? That’s-

SANDRA QUINCE: Yeah, absolutely.

ELFI MARTINEZ: It’s the right thing to do, but I think what we’ve added in the past 10 or 15 years is it’s the right thing to do and it’s the right thing for your business. It will make your business better. And I think we really have to remember and we have to use our platforms to emphasize the message that diversity and inclusion is not a zero sum game. It’s not a, we have a fixed pie and if I win, that means you lose. That kind of mentality, I think, is what’s holding organizations back in a lot of cases, is the star around, “Well, if I give more to diverse employees, that means there’s less available for me.” No. The reality is that people feel better about where they are, they’ll do better and the organization will perform better. There’s a bigger pie for everybody. And I think-

SANDRA QUINCE: That’s right.

ELFI MARTINEZ: … for us as diversity practitioners, it’s also really important to remember that there is a head and a heart component to this work. There are some people that when you talk to them, they want to know about the numbers and the business and the ROI. It’s important for us to be able to speak to that. But for a lot of people, they couldn’t care less about the numbers. What they want to know, is this a place where I belong?

SANDRA QUINCE: Yes.

ELFI MARTINEZ: Is this a place where I feel welcomed, respected, and heard? Like you said, is this a place where I can come to work and not have to spend most of my time just trying to survive my identities rather than thrive with my identity? So there are two very different things, and we can’t do them both at the same time. So I think what you’re talking about right now is incredibly important. We’ve only got a couple of minutes left. I want to check in with you around this idea of inclusive leadership. People right now are really asking themselves, “Well, what do I say, what do I do?” Is there any other guidance that you can have for people that are kind of freezing themselves and saying, “I don’t know what I should say or do, so I’m not going to say or do anything”? What are some of your thoughts on people that are afraid right now to demonstrate inclusive leadership?

SANDRA QUINCE: So here’s the deal. I would say, say something. You have to say something. And again, go back, be brave, not perfect. The other thing is be curious. Ask open-ended questions. Help me to understand why you feel this way, or why is this happening, or how did we get here, or whatever the case may be. The other thing is silence is not golden, touch base with your team, especially… Now, I did say earlier that you could decide… I’m not talking about leaders. When you’re a leader, you have to pay to play. You’re in a leadership role for a reason. And as leaders, you cannot be silent.

Connect personally, so have personal conversations. And again, they can be via email. You don’t even have to say much in your email. It’s, “How are you, just checking in on you. If you feel like talking, I have a minute. If not, I get it. I understand. I just wanted to let you know, I’m thinking about you. I’m thinking about you.” The other thing is, be respectful and listen first. Be respectful and listen, and ask how you can help, and then ask for grace. “Hey, this might come out wrong. I have a question, I really didn’t… I don’t understand this, so please forgive me if this doesn’t come out the right way.”

And then acknowledge that other’s opinions might differ from yours, and that’s okay. This is not about changing people’s… It’s not about making people feel guilty, and it’s not about changing who you are at your core, it’s about enlightening, promoting, understanding. And I agree with you, diversity and inclusion is about me and you, not me or you. It’s not a replacement strategy. If you’re trying to make an organization where everybody’s Black or everybody’s Hispanic, or everybody’s LGBTQ, then you’re not doing the DNI. You’re not. That’s not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about just creating a level playing field, so that everyone has the opportunity to realize and can have their full potential realized within that company. Everybody can’t be CEO, and that’s okay, we get that.

ELFI MARTINEZ: Right.

SANDRA QUINCE: You know what I’m saying? It’s not like we’re trying to say, “Yeah, we need a CEO of every ethnicity and background and religion.” That’s not what we’re saying. What we’re saying is, we just need to be able to say, who is the best person for the job, and have offered the opportunity equally amongst everyone. That’s all we’re saying. And if it happens to be the White man, give it to him.

ELFI MARTINEZ: And here’s an important point, something I’m going to draw on that, what you just said, I think it’s an important point for us to end on, is this idea… Especially for senior leaders, right?

SANDRA QUINCE: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

ELFI MARTINEZ: A lot of times there’s a very old fashioned model of leadership that senior leaders subscribe to, this stoic model. “I have all the answers. I’m supposed to be in control. I’m supposed to be the guy that comes in and fixes stuff.” And when you have that kind of point of view, it’s really difficult when-

SANDRA QUINCE: That’s right.

ELFI MARTINEZ: … there are unforeseen circumstances to then respond, because you wait and wait and wait until you get it perfect, and by that time, the moment is over. So what are your thoughts about vulnerability and leadership, and whether or not vulnerability makes you a better leader or not as an effective leader? What have been some of your observations about vulnerability in leadership?

SANDRA QUINCE: Yeah, I think as a leader, part of that is vulnerability. Look, a leader has to have empathy, they have to inspire, they have to be trustworthy, they have to have the heart and minds of their employees. And as you heard in that list, I never said a leader has to know everything. That’s not your job as a leader. Your job as the leader is to assemble the best team, because they’re going to be the ones that know and have subject matter expertise, and your job is to lead. And in this moment, it’s not about having the answers. In this moment, it’s not about…

Yes, you have a point of view, I think all leaders should have a point of view, but it’s not about having all the answers. It’s about sitting down in a very intimate space with your team, checking in with them, ensuring that they are okay, understanding what more that they need so that they can be successful and continue to do the business of the day. Because at the end of the day, we’re here to make money. We are a for-profit company. And so my CEO understands, “I will give my people everything they need to be successful and support them in every way. But at the end of the day, I need to be able to get the best out of them. And I have to be able to create that environment.” That’s the role of the leader. You do that, you really don’t have to have all the answers, because your team will bring them to you, and they’ll make you look fantastic.

ELFI MARTINEZ: That’s such a great point. And I think this is something that’s so important for us to hear for ourselves as leaders, but also for the leaders we engage with, is sometimes the most courageous thing you could do, the most incredible active leadership that you can do is to admit, I don’t know-

SANDRA QUINCE: That’s right.

ELFI MARTINEZ: … and just say the words and have people engage in conversation with you, because saying, “I don’t know,” opens up a conversation and allows you… If I don’t know but I want to learn, right?

SANDRA QUINCE: Yeah.

ELFI MARTINEZ: It really gives you an opportunity to have conversations you otherwise don’t have. And a lot of times people talk about, “Oh, empathy.” Well, empathy is all about opening the container. And one of the ways you open the container is to just say, “I don’t know. I don’t know and I want to learn,” and give yourself the permission and grace to not have all the answers.

SANDRA QUINCE: That’s right.

ELFI MARTINEZ: And maybe then you’ll learn something new. So I think it’s an incredibly important point that you’re making around this idea that vulnerability is important, and sometimes you just have to admit, “I don’t know about this. I want to learn, help me understand.” Do the work yourself, don’t just lean on people, but educate yourself, get better, do something, I think is what we’re trying to say. I know we only had a couple of minutes left. I want to fold Jenn back into the conversation. So Jennifer, any parting thoughts you want to help us add as we kind of close our conversation for today?

JENNIFER BROWN: I’m so grateful to both of you and I’m just… I’m smiling reading the chat, because Sandra, you have a lot of fans. You have 250 new friends, so-

SANDRA QUINCE: Awesome.

JENNIFER BROWN: … your LinkedIn is going to kind of blow up. Everyone-

SANDRA QUINCE: Yes. And I do want to give my… I don’t know how to give my information to people. What do you think the best way is, Jennifer? But sandra.quince@B-O-A.com. I know some of you have said, “Hey, reach out to me. I’m on LinkedIn.” Listen, I am not good with LinkedIn. So if I have not responded to you, it is not personal. It is because I need you to email me at sandra.quince@boa.com, and I promise, you will hear from me. So I just wanted to meet you with that. I’d love to be able to continue this dialogue. And Jennifer, again, thank you for inviting me. I apologize, I cut you off.

JENNIFER BROWN: Oh, no, thank you. I’m glad. Your LinkedIn profile, in researching you, I was like, “This can’t be her.” Because it does not speak to the amazingness of you. And maybe somebody could offer to help.

SANDRA QUINCE: I’m going to fix it, Jennifer. It’s on my list. It’s on my list of things to do.

JENNIFER BROWN: I sense that somebody in this group of 250 folks might be helpful to you as well.

SANDRA QUINCE: That’s awesome. Yes. Call me please.

JENNIFER BROWN: Support each other. I love that. But this has been wonderful. Thank you. Thank you, Elfi, too for joining. Hats off to you.

ELFI MARTINEZ: Happy to.

ELFI MARTINEZ: Thank you.

JENNIFER BROWN: Love, love, love.

ELFI MARTINEZ: Great conversation.

JENNIFER BROWN: Still-

ELFI MARTINEZ: Great conversation.

JENNIFER BROWN: … need to get you in dialogue and allow me to just listen. There was such good resources in chat. Wanted to highlight some. There was all kinds of dialogue going on about statements that missed the mark, good statements. I shared a resource on White supremacy culture, which I find myself thinking about a lot. That perfectionism is actually at the top of that list. And there’s other things that I think if you read them, you will recognize the pushback we get in business is informed by that. Because the workplace was built by and for one group of people.

Just like you said, Sandra, I love that you said like, a homogeneous company of any kind of diversity, identity is not going to have the complimentary creative abrasion that we need. And I think that’s very… I know, I get clients sometimes that are all female organizations, including the leadership, and they were almost afraid to say, “The men in our organization are not sure that they’re having the opportunities for advancement and promotion.” And it’s fascinating.

SANDRA QUINCE: That’s right.

JENNIFER BROWN: So we need a real compliment. We need intersectional lens on absolutely everything. And there was a bunch of other amazing things. I know all of you look at the chat. I hope we share the chat in the replay. I always print it out, I go through, I read, I share in social media. But we are learning together. This is such a cutting edge conversation because of all of you and what you input to it, so I’m just so grateful. I know you’ve appreciated this. Thank you so much. Share your LinkedIn in chat if you’d like to, please. Don’t be shy. Let us know how we can support you.

So remember, a lot of us are… It’s funny, a lot of us were in transition, and now I feel like companies are probably grabbing every DNI person they can get. I hope that you’re all seeing a change there. But regardless, some of us are going to be in transition, and I want to make sure… Let us know if you need that kind of support, and keep an eye as well on the Inclusion Allies Coalition website, which has that job board for DNI roles. So-

SANDRA QUINCE: And Jennifer, can I just say something to that comment you made about pulling in all your DNI people? I agree with that, like, DNI subject matter experts, but you’ve got to equip your people to have this conversation. This is not a DNI conversation, and this is not a moment for DNI to take over and start running that company and trying to say everything. Give them the tools and resources and let your business leaders lead those conversations, because they need to do that. They have to own this moment with their constituencies. This is not a DNI problem, this is something for the whole company to get behind and say, “How do we make a difference? How do we move this work forward?” Give them the tools and resources, so that they can then take it and run with it.

JENNIFER BROWN: Oh, Sandra, excellent, excellent. This is everybody’s job. And I think the-

SANDRA QUINCE: That’s right.

JENNIFER BROWN: … reason why we haven’t made more progress is because all eyes have turned to the DNI team, or all eyes have turned to the affinity group to be accountable for a problem that’s actually a systems problem and a leadership problem-

SANDRA QUINCE: That’s right.

JENNIFER BROWN: … and a White people problem.

SANDRA QUINCE: That’s it.

JENNIFER BROWN: So I really appreciate that you said that, and now is the time… We’ve been saying this forever, but I think now it’s really becoming real and people are feeling the heat, and I’m really glad they’re feeling the heat-

SANDRA QUINCE: That’s right.

JENNIFER BROWN: You know we like to bring-

SANDRA QUINCE: That’s right.

JENNIFER BROWN: … the heat, right, Elfi?

ELFI MARTINEZ: Absolutely.

SANDRA QUINCE: Bring the heat. And listen, don’t pull all your Black people together and put them in a room and ask them-

JENNIFER BROWN: No.

SANDRA QUINCE: … to fix it. That-

JENNIFER BROWN: No.

SANDRA QUINCE: … is the worst thing you can do. Everybody should be engaged in this conversation.

ELFI MARTINEZ: Absolutely.

SANDRA QUINCE: Everybody. Get your Asian people, get your military, LGBTQ; everybody needs to be engaged in this conversation.

JENNIFER BROWN: That’s right. They’re all intersectional.

ELFI MARTINEZ: It’s for all of us. For all of us.

SANDRA QUINCE: It’s for all of us. Yes. Yes. I love it.

JENNIFER BROWN: Oh my gosh. I hate to let you all go, but this has been amazing. Truly, we are like applauding, sending love. Sandra, Tulsa, hang in there, we’re going to watch the news, we’re going to keep posted on everything. I really look forward to being on the program with you on the 18th, it’s going to be a lifetime between now and then. It’s going to be interesting. I know that we’ll navigate it in the best and the most loving and the most gracious way that we can. There’s much to learn about the history of Tulsa, everybody, so if you’re not familiar with all of that, do some Googling today and learn.

SANDRA QUINCE: Yup.

JENNIFER BROWN: Yup.

SANDRA QUINCE: Race massacre. And it wasn’t taught in schools.

JENNIFER BROWN: No, it wasn’t.

SANDRA QUINCE: And many people who’ve lived in Tulsa for years would tell you they’ve never heard anything about it. It’s just like one more thing we like to sweep under the rug and pretend it didn’t exist.

JENNIFER BROWN: Not this group.

SANDRA QUINCE: Yeah. So pull it out and educate yourselves and your teammates. Send them a link.

JENNIFER BROWN: Send them a link. Thank you so, so much everybody. I know I’ve got to let you go. Be safe, take care of yourself, pace yourself.

SANDRA QUINCE: Yes.

JENNIFER BROWN: And thank you for all the work that all of you are doing, holding up so much in yourselves and others. All right. I’m going to let you go.

ELFI MARTINEZ: Thanks folks.

SANDRA QUINCE: Thank you everybody.

ELFI MARTINEZ: Take care.

JENNIFER BROWN: Thank you. See you next week.

SANDRA QUINCE: Thank you.